Fair Park First, alongside the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, announced it received a generous gift of $5 million from John and Helen Carona for the naming of the now Carona Plaza at the Cotton Bowl Stadium. The Carona family has a distinguished reputation for service to the Dallas community. Their investment in this public space is an extension of that commitment to Dallas and to the great State of Texas.
In January 2019, Fair Park First, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, assumed management of Fair Park in partnership with The City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department. Fair Park First’s mission is to restore, revitalize, and renew the 277-acre National Historic Landmark through transformative improvements, increased attendance, and improved tenant relations, ultimately sustaining Fair Park for generations to come. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department is one of the largest municipal park systems in the country and manages a multitude of diverse facilities and recreational programs.
“It is an honor to have the Carona family invest in the storied past and hopeful future of Fair Park,” said Veletta Forsythe-Lill, Board of Directors member, Fair Park First. “They will help us create a new and inviting campus for all.”
John Carona served the State of Texas as a former member of the Texas Senate from District 16 in Dallas County, serving as President pro tempore during the 80th legislature. Previously, Carona also served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Now he serves as the president of the Dallas-based company, Associa.
“This is an incredible gift that supports a historic gem in our city. I want to thank John Carona and his family, who have served our state over many years, for their generosity and commitment to Fair Park and Cotton Bowl Stadium. As we can see this month during the great State Fair of Texas, these are vital venues that serve Dallas residents while helping us welcome guests beyond our city, from across our state and from around the world,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.
The Carona Plaza will serve as the signature heartbeats of the Fair Park campus, situated directly in front of the iconic Cotton Bowl Stadium and Leonhardt Lagoon. The Plaza will receive upgrades including new concrete work, landscaping and sitting areas, as well as marquee signage at the north and south ends.
“While Fair Park is going through a renaissance period of renovation, we could not be more honored and excited by John and Helen Carona’s commitment to Dallas with this generous gift,” said Arun Agarwal, President, Dallas Park and Recreation Board.
With the legendary Cotton Bowl Stadium as the backdrop to the Carona Plaza, this area will serve as a center point of the activation area of Fair Park’s 277 acres – from the State Fair of Texas to concerts, games, festivals and more. The Carona Plaza improvements, coupled with the $140M of improvements going into the Cotton Bowl Stadium, will create vibrant hospitality at the center of Fair Park.
“We are so honored that the Carona Family’s gift will help facilitate the continued restoration and revitalization of the Fair Park campus,” said Heather Stevens, Rise360, Capital Campaigns for Fair Park. “Their generosity builds on the continued public and philanthropic support of the Phase 1 capital campaign, led by Fair Park First in partnership with Dallas Parks and Recreation, to revitalize Fair Park. Together collectively raised more than $350 million raised towards the goal, and we invite donors to join to the campaign in supporting this beloved campus as it enters a new era of serving the City of Dallas.”
Along with the Cotton Bowl Stadium and Carona Plaza renovations, Fair Park has several other capital projects on the campus underway during Phase 1 of the Master Plan. These include the Music Hall, African American Museum, Dallas, Visitor Center, Magnolia Lounge, creation of the 18-acre Community Park, a 1.4-acre neighborhood park, and several other building and grounds projects.